This debut release from Sacramento, California resident Julie Baenziger was never meant to reach our ears – at least, we’re told, not in its current form. Having been given just 15 minutes’ instruction in the dark arts of ProTools by producer John Baccigaluppi, Baenziger was left to her own devices for 48 hours to lay down some demos for her debut album, only to dazzle her teacher with the results when he returned: five roadworthy songs that conspired to form an EP in pretty much the order in which they were recorded, with only slight remixing by Baccigaluppi.
Not to be confused with the rough and ready She Keeps Bees, Baenziger’s one-woman band is primally disposed to bask in exultations of innocence and kindness. Opening track ‘Skinnybone’ instantly recalls Cortney Tidwell’s self-titled EP in the echoey simplicity of the recording and the tumbledown beauty of Baenziger’s vocals, a comparison that ‘The Woods’ can’t quite shake off. Baenziger’s clear, sweet melodies are untroubled, even when her mind is muddled, and it’s this seemingly unaffected benevolence that adds a golden touch to these songs.
It’s not so much the instrumentation that impresses, but the mesmeric way in which the songs hang together. Whether it is simply because they were intended as demos, or if Baenziger really does have an intuitive notion of compositional space, the songs feel pure and unforced, as if filled with light. After the all too brief, chime-laden ‘Lightfriend’ comes ‘Willis’, and with it the first hint that Baenziger is not a total naïf. Yet even in the realm of romantic betrayal her generosity shines through. “You said that you loved me / that doesn’t matter anymore,” cites her complaisant acceptance over a simple keyboard repetition.
Final track ‘Blind’ is perhaps the EP’s least distinctive inclusion. As unfailingly lovely as it is, it doesn’t really go anywhere, coasting along a level playing field of niceness. Nevertheless, if Baenziger can successfully translate the personality of these demos into a proper recording environment, her forthcoming album (working title A Song For The Raven) should be a cosmic delight. And with Vetiver’s Andy Cabic already confirmed as a guest vocalist, expect to hear plenty more buzz about Sea Of Bees in 2010.
[Digisquad; July 17, 2009]